Hatriot are a legacy band of Steve “Zetro” Souza. The Exodus frontman formed Hatriot nearly a decade ago with guitarist Kosta Varvatakis. After releasing two albums, Heroes Of Origin (2013) and Dawn Of The New Centurion a year later, Zetro left the group as its vocalist. He handed the vocal reins over to his son Cody, while taking on a coaching role. With the band’s third recording, From Days Unto Darkness, Cody not only sings and closely resembles his father, he also plays bass. Brother Nick beats the drums with Kevin Paterson providing second guitar and additional vocals.
From Days Unto Darkness retains the Bay Area thrash sound the Souzas’ father helped bring into the collective consciousness of thrashers everywhere, but the group expanded this sound to a more modern approach. The production is thick and Cody growls and screeches in a manner close to The Black Dahlia Murder. The song writing is aggressive and filled with horror. Cody Souza talked to Heavy Music Headquarters about his father stepping down, and assuming vocal duties. In the following chat, Souza breaks down how Hatriot works as a band, and the writing process for From Days Unto Darkness.
Darren Cowan: From Days Unto Darkness is your third release. This is the first record to not feature your father, Steve Souza. How did his departure change the writing process?
Cody Souza: He’s still a pretty big part of it. This was my first album singing by myself that’s professionally produced. He was in the background coaching. Obviously, he would be on the road. It was kind of funny having your dad as a coach. We all grew up with that. Anyone can relate. He can tell by a photo if I’m pressing too hard. “I can see you’re straining your voice too hard!” It’s kind of funny. It definitely went its own direction. I learned how to do the vocal process and writing the songs, sort of the rest of the band, it wasn’t all Zet (Steve “Zetro” Souza) doing the lyrics and Kosta (Varvatakis) doing the music. There was more band involvement. It was good. We enjoyed the direction it’s going in.
Why did your father leave the group? Was he too busy with Exodus?
There are a bunch of different stories about that. He even spilled it if you’re a Blabbermouth surfer. Exodus had a few pop-up shows coming up and we had two shows booked; one with D.R.I. and I think one with M.O.D. We wanted to play them so bad, so we were goofing around in practice one day, and I got behind the mic and just started making noises. My brother (Nick) was behind the drum set. He dropped his jaw and looked at me, “You do dad better than dad can do dad!” We continued with it. We didn’t tell anybody that we were still doing the shows. We hadn’t dropped off the shows.
Those who were savvy enough were like, “Zet’s in Iowa tonight,” or wherever he was that night. “How are we going to be in both spots at once?” This was right before we main supported for D.R.I. I went on stage and that is the same feeling we’re getting on the album right now. People absolutely love it or hate it. Seems like the overall consensus has been good. We politely asked him to step aside. We still want him as an involvement, as a piece of our family. It’s our family business, our family project, but I’m going to front it. I had to re-record two of his songs that exist somewhere out there. He listened to them and was baffled too. He told me I could totally do it. He wasn’t even worried about it. That’s kind of how the vocals came together. We moved forward. That’s what happened.
I didn’t know that he’s not doing vocals. I heard a new song and thought it was him. Your vocals are very similar.
When asked in interviews, I definitely used him and Trevor (Strnad) from The Black Dahlia Murder and mixed the two. I used a little more placement in mids with my dad, but I’m a little more energetic and youthful, I hate to say, but it is what it is. He’s still doing, in this day and age, what he’s always been good at. The death growls and the weird mids add a new flavor to it, yet it’s still very Hatriot.
On the subject of death metal, “Ethereal Nightmare” is reminiscent of the band, Death. Was that intentional? Are you a fan of Chuck Schuldiner?
All the music is Kosta. He played that one. You know when you’re in a band and you have pseudo names, project names like when the next Xbox is coming out, they have a project name for it. That one’s project name was “Symbolic.” That definitely tickled my Death ears, too. When I wrote that one, I thought it was super dreamy, very ethereal. I don’t know if anyone plays the Diablo franchise, but the Ethereal Weapon was a weapon that was real but not real. So we wrote a dreamy song and I thought, “What’s more dreamy than Freddy Krueger?” It’s loosely based on a demon that will kill you in your sleep.
The guitar solos are phenomenal. Talk a little about the guitar solos.
Really, that’s all Kosta. He’s the musical genius. Pretty much him and my brother. He’ll have a bunch of riffs, my brother will help him string them together with some drum beats, and then we’ll all learn it from there. Kosta is the man, the myth, the legend, the wizard. I would say 95 percent of the music is Kosta. It’s crazy. He arranged all of his own stuff. He writes all of his own stuff. Then the vocals will come to me and my brother, and then we’ll go from there.
There are some horror elements. The album is heavy and aggressive, the lyrics are very dark. “Carnival of Execution” seems to work on the scary carnie/clowns tradition of horror. What inspired this song?
Someone asked me that earlier. That came from one of the Dawn of the New Centurion songs. Really quick, my pop spits out a line, “carnival of execution.” We thought it was really cool. We thought, “What is the Carnival of Execution?” I think we were all drinking one day. We were sitting around the circle on the table and I started running with the idea. It’s one of those carnivals you can’t help but look at. It shows society’s view on gory stuff. People love gory stuff — horror movies, boxing. It’s animalistic of us, but people as a mass yearn for it. Atrocious events are happening at this carnival, but you slowly become part of the carnival. The evil turns you. That’s the realm we went for. We had fun with it. We wanted to keep it in the same vein as what we’re doing. We sing about horror movies. We sing about domestic violence in a better light—the person causing the domestic violence is killed. We try to keep it in the realm of Hatriot: horror movies, the end of the world, domestic disputes…
“Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” is another title conveying classic horror cinema. Is Frankenstein used more as a metaphorical subject?
There is a lyric video for a pre-pro that we released like two years ago. That was the first song I ever wrote by myself, lyrically. When Pop left, he did a sort of exit interview. He gave us this song called “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” and gave us a light version of how the chorus should go, and told us to run with it. I asked, what is it? He said Frankenstein is a monster, so are people on death row, so we have to kill the monsters of society. In a negative light, that’s how it’s looked at. So I wrote it and used different parts of my vocal range to tell different parts of the story. When I’m in the mids or highs, it’s the villagers trying to hunt down the abomination. Anytime I use the lows it’s Frankenstein’s point of view. It was something I went with that actually came out pretty cool. The song is a total fucking ripper! It flowed easy.
You also write about the New World Order. Where did that start? Are you into subversive literature?
Not so much the New World Order. If you want a good conversation about that, my brother would be the guy to talk about conspiracy theories. It’s like “Days Unto Darkness” is the Reign in Blood, “Raining Blood” kind of thing. You can pass out into darkness or these days we know are going into a dark time. The album title is about problems in our society. We’re all just setting ourselves onto flames. I don’t know, just generic horror metal 101 shit to talk about, right?
As great as ‘80s thrash is, the production lacked volume and seemed kind of thin. From Days Unto Darkness is loud and thick. All the instruments appear in the mix. Bass can often be forgotten, but your bass is up front. How much of this is from the recording and how much of it is from harmonizing the bass with the guitar?
It’s pretty much “show me anything and I’ll play it.” Kosta writes everything. He’s very meticulous on how he wants his bass parts. Sometimes I’ll follow him, but I’ll get that glassed eye across the room. It’s just time coming. It’s us working together as a whole, and him also understanding the bass wants to be heard. I hate to say it, a lot of times I just rip on the open E. I do a lot of vocal parts, too, especially a lot of my dad’s songs I had to dumb some of those parts down because he’s so all-over-the-place vocally and me playing an instrument at the same time. Good luck. Kosta sits down and finalizes how it goes. Thanks to Cody Fuentes and Juan Urteaga for making it as booming as it is. It’s funny you mention ‘80s thrash, I always had a joke that James Hetfield did his recordings down a friggin hallway. Holy shit, it’s so bad! Look at something else from a different genre at that time. It doesn’t sound that bad. I don’t know if they were going for something. Call me a naïve second-generation metal kid, but I guess it is what it is.
Hatriot are approaching a decade as a band. How do you feel about being together for almost ten years?
It feels really good. Now that you say that, I feel we should have done more. We’ve had fun with it. It’s our “super hobby” as I call it. We all have jobs. Crazy, we’re coming up on ten years. It’s funny, too, there was one Hatriot show where a couple people were sick. Glen Alvelais (Forbidden) stepped in. My brother wasn’t on drums yet. We had another rhythm guitar player, so I’m the only member to appear on one of the first Hatriot show stages. It makes me think.
What’s next for Hatriot? Are you going on the road?
We have a few shows lined up, here and there. I think our manager, Ace, is in the works for some stuff, but right now we’re all working, going to school. We have a bunch going on. We’re super busy. We’ll see where it goes. We’re hoping the perception of me on vocals doesn’t hinder the band, and we continue moving it forward. I think that’s what everybody is waiting to see.
(interview published July 25, 2019)